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Freedom of Information and Data Protection

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

My right hon. and noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following written ministerial statement.

“The Government are today publishing for consultation the draft Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2007, which give effect to the changes the Government announced they were minded to make on 16 October 2006.

The draft regulations will extend the existing provisions by allowing public authorities to include reading time, consideration time, and consultation time in the calculation of the appropriate limit, above which requests could be refused on cost grounds; and aggregate all requests made by a person or persons who appear to be acting in concert or pursuance of a campaign to each public authority within a period of sixty working days for the purposes of calculating the appropriate limit.

An independent economic review of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act commissioned by my Department and published on 16 October 2006 found that a small percentage of requests and requestors were placing disproportionately large burdens on public authorities in terms of the costs of officials' time.

Whilst the Government believe it is entirely right that a reasonable amount of resource is spent dealing with requests for information we believe, in light of experience, that the existing provisions need to be amended in order to provide the right balance between access to information for all and the delivery of other public services.

The draft regulations will allow public authorities to take into account more accurately the work involved in dealing with an FOI request.

The draft regulations are being published for a 12-week consultation with responses being invited by 8 March 2007. The consultation paper, which includes a partial regulatory impact assessment, will be sent to key stakeholders. The consultation paper is available on my Department's website at www.dca.gov.uk”.